Samui Wining & Dining
Signed with a Flourish

A look at the signature dish at Chaweng’s Red Snapper Restaurant & Bar - Slow Cooked Lamb Shoulder with Oriental Spices

 

7 When it comes to dining, there’s an unwritten law. You can have gourmet food, or you can have inexpensive food. But you just can’t put the two things together in the same sentence. And that’s odd.

     A Mercedes, for example, is a connoisseur’s car, but it’s quite acceptable to talk about an inexpensive Mercedes; it might be even a point of pride to say that you’ve acquired such a thing. But, for some reason you just can’t do this when it comes to food. In this sense the words ‘inexpensive’ or ‘affordable’ suddenly become damaging, and instinctively you’ll feel suspicious. It’s almost as if (just by saying out loud that the cuisine is not expensive) this instantly devalues the concept. It’s the same as saying, “Ha! See? It’s not expensive so it can’t be the real thing!” Which, when you think logically about it, is really rather silly.

      Samui is an absolute hotbed of excellent eateries and there are a lot of top chefs working here. Naturally every one of them has their own approach and specialities. But one of the most striking combinations of chef, cuisine, ambiance and accessibility comes with Chaweng’s Red Snapper Restaurant & Bar. And to that I’m deliberately going to add . . . and it’s eminently affordable, too.

       Behind every good menu there’s a good chef. And behind an excellent menu? Well Sébastien Meunier, the Chef de Cuisine at Red Snapper, is a most excellent chef. Beginning with a grounding in classical French cuisine, he’s worked his way through Europe, the USA and Asia, broadening and refining his food philosophy along the way. He’s previously held posts as chef de partis at the Michelin 3-Star, Château Eza on the French Riviera then, subsequently, working as sous chef in two more prestigious restaurants, both of them Michelin-starred. And in December 2007 he landed his present post at Red Snapper.

 

The result is that the meat is
literally so tender, it really
does melt in your mouth.

 

       You’ll find Red Snapper in the middle of Chaweng, a few hundred metres north of the landmark Soi Green Mango. Probably the single most-impressive feature of this restaurant is that everything’s confidently understated. There’s an open terrace along the front edge, screened from the road by a water feature and a line of tall reeds. The layout is on several subtly-divided levels, and also features a lounge and bar – not forgetting that outer terrace – where you’ll be able to see one of the few resident live groups in Chaweng, in this case playing the Latin American music for which the restaurant is renowned.

       As with all dedicated chefs, Sébastien has created one or two dishes of which he is particularly proud. Of these he’s elected to put one forward as a ‘signature’ offering - Slow Cooked Lamb Shoulder with Oriental Spices. “My cuisine is distinctly Mediterranean,” he told me, “but I reduce all the sauces so that they lose the heaviness and retain the flavour. Really it’s more like a juice than a sauce. The lamb shoulder is slow-braised for six hours. All the goodness of the meat juices is retained in the pot and the meat absorbs this again like a sponge. The result is that the meat is literally so tender, it really does melt in your mouth. And then the remaining juices are used to make the sauce. It is a very popular choice and is served with chouchouka, couscous, green peas, dates, roasted almonds and mint sauce.”

       There are more superb offerings on the menu, as you’ll see if you check out the restaurant’s website at the address below. But this one has been chosen by Sébastien as representative of his art. There’s just one thing more – and that’s where we came in. The entire menu is sensibly priced. The ‘Slow Cooked Lamb Shoulder with Oriental Spices’ will cost you less than 600 baht. And when you take into account the seven hours of preparation and cooking, then this is one dish that can rightly be ‘signed with a flourish’!

 

Rob De Wet


 


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